Supporting the fragile ties of a family
In face of an ongoing global economic crisis and all the uncertainty it carries embedded, a country such as Kyrgyzstan, poor and with its people often neglected by the majority of those outside its borders, has turned into an inhospitable environment for children and their families.
In addition to growing prices for food and basic commodities, the population currently struggles with a ruthless winter energy crisis, which has progressively taken its toll on those who are most vulnerable. Cold and helpless, thousands of children are suffering in the dark while UNICEF and partners pull efforts to improve their lives.
In the capital city of Bishkek, as well as in other townships in Kyrgyzstan, UNICEF is supporting child protection centers that attend to children who were left without parental care. The centers also help families in financial difficulty to retain their ties and prevent placement of children in residential care institutions.
In one of these protecting shelters in Bishkek, works Dilya Kydyralieva. Her main daily task is to look out for vagrant children wandering around the capital’s streets and ensure that their lives are out of immediate danger. After bringing them to safety, Dilya starts searching for any information about their parents or other relatives.
It was during another hard day’s work, early in 2008, that Dilya first met 10-year-old Damir and his eight-year-old sister, Nazira. They were both sleeping in a park when she finally approached. Both children started talking at once about their mother and refused to go anywhere, as they believed she would come back for them. Unfortunately, Dilya found out later that their mother had passed away to illness. The children, traumatized with the loss, still refused to believe.
“She was very good at singing. She had a lovely voice. When she drank alcohol, she had a different voice, so plaintive; and we could not help crying,” remembers Damir. In September 2008, after finally joining the UNICEF supported child protection centre in Bishkek, Damir and Nazira overcame their suffering and started attending school.
On their first day as students, both children had to be submitted to a thorough health inspection, something that troubled Nazira as she didn’t want to be late for school. “Our mother would have been upset. She wanted us to be always on time so that she would not feel ashamed,” she says. After doing the health exams they started their new journey. From that very first day on, brother and sister have only received top marks at school.
After salvaging Damir and Nazira from the streets and getting them back to school, Dilya Kydyralieva continued to search for more of their relatives. She found out that both children had previously lived with their family in Leilek district, southern Kyrgyzstan, until their father, Alymbek Asankulov, went to Russia after work and never got in touch again.
Their mother, being tired from the hopeless economic situation, made a decision to move to Bishkek in hope of finding job opportunities. Instead of a better life, they found themselves imprisoned in the streets of an unknown big city without a house or any means to survive.
Despite all the unfavorable odds, something that could have easily become another dark story of poverty and suffering, revealed a happy ending. Damir and Nazira’s father, who they thought had disappeared, returned from Russia after losing his job and began to look out for his family.
Alymbek managed to find his children and the child protection centre not too long after they joined school. They all met again on New Year’s Eve and started 2009 together, in a small cold flat rented in Bishkek. Since Alymbek’s financial condition is not enough to support his family, they have temporarily gone back to the centre. Nonetheless, father and children keep their expectations high, dreaming of one day being together again.